Switched On – Moby: Ambient 23 (Always Centered At Night)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Moby is a man of many musical genres, but ambient music is the form that pulls him back most regularly; the style of music in which he feels most at home. His first Ambient release, titled as such, was in 1993 and made subtle waves with its undulating textures and slightly mournful soundscapes, presenting the vision of a man at home in a bedroom studio. As time has progressed so the ambient forms have become longer, culminating in the Long Ambients release of 2019, written to accompany yoga sessions, and a volume of improvised Live Ambients in 2020.

This release is made, in Moby’s words, ‘almost exclusively with weird old drum machines and old synths from my collection, inspired by my early ambient heroes’. By these he means Brian Eno, Martyn Ware, Jean-Michel Jarre and Will Sergeant.

Released for the new year, Moby also says Ambient 23 was written to ease anxiety, with the accompanying wish that ‘we all stop looking for validation from a culture we don’t respect’.

What’s the music like?

As soothing as you can imagine – and an ideal complement to the previous Long Ambients releases. The colours fashioned from the older equipment are a factor of this, and Moby finds a wide expanse of space by writing very slow moving melodic lines. The sounds will be familiar to long-time Moby listeners, with fuzzy textures from the surrounding white noise, elegant piano playing and broad string-based sounds.

The pieces have functional titles, but different characters. amb23-3 has a poised melody from an electronic cello equivalent. amb23-4 feels like a living and breathing organism, before ushering in a slowly dancing treble line amb23-6 has calming chords returning regularly like waves. amb23-9 is ideally weighted, alternating between two thick chords that are nicely weighted, but by contrast amb23-5 floats effortlessly, with ambient white noise in the background. The dappled piano figures of amb23-10 are softly affecting, amb23-11 is like a distant breath of wind, while the piano strokes of amb23-12 are like distant bells.

Does it all work?

It does, provided the listener’s expectations are for pure ambience and nothing more! That said, Moby knows how pace a longer musical structure, and each of these gets into a zen state very quickly.

Is it recommended?

It is – the ideal antidote to the January blues and any accompanying pressure. The serenity of Moby’s ambient music can get you through.

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For more listening and purchase options, head to Moby’s website